A super quick read that you won’t be able to get out of your head. This one’s important, Mamma. Take the three minutes to read this.
Good morning, Mommy. Happy Wednesday! Taking a minute for gratitude this morning. A minute to relax and breath and look around, and be aware of everything that is right in my life.
How about you? Care to join me? Gratitude. Grateful for…
My children. Their laughter, their sparkling eyes, their energy. The way the smell when they’re sleeping, utterly relaxed and at peace. Their deep, deep, goodness… makes me want to be a better person just being around them.
My husband. Big, thick, brick wall of a man. Strong enough to carry me up the stairs (screaming with laughter the whole way), gentle enough to read board books out loud to a very, very small, barefoot toddler girl. (Where’s the duck? There’s the duck!)
I am grateful for frozen cherries and whipped cream from a can. Breakfast of champions. With coffee. I’m grateful for that too.
I am grateful for laptops that let me share my love affair with words and life, while snuggled into an ancient green sofa, wearing sweatpants and toasty (toasty!) warm slippers.
I’m grateful for my job. My work outside the home. I’m grateful for the additional dimension it adds to my life. Allowing me to exercise muscles that wouldn’t necessarily get worked were I here at home full time. Yes, there are days I hate it. There are days I love it, too.
I am grateful that somehow, someway, I have been able to work and raise a family these last twenty-some years. And they all still speak to me, and they all still speak to each other. We have survived break-ups and lay-offs and hospital emergency room visits. Family dinners and Christmas trees and confirmations. Water fights and bedtime baths and trips to the lake. “I don’t want to!” And, “Can you help me?” And, “Mom, do you have a minute?”
I am grateful, so grateful, for the whole grand and glorious mess of it.
We are here, ladies. We get to be here, we get to do this! We have jobs and families and lives that we live with our brains and our hearts and our own two (very busy, very full, very capable) hands.
Lord above, there is so much to be grateful for.
It happens this way sometimes. Life goes in cycles, and there are some cycles when work takes a mighty big chunk of who I am.
So, now it’s time to get some balance back.
I know, I really, fully know, that I need to do some repair at home. No, nothing major has fallen apart while I’ve been away. But the drifting that happens when work has taken the main chunk of me for too long is almost worse. Because the drifting happens so gradually, so painlessly, that I can look up, and my family is far away, and I don’t even remember how we got here.
Work is still intense. There is endless stuff to do at work right now. I could be there 24/7 and there would still be more to do.
So I have to be very intentional about pulling away from work at the end of the day to be with my family. Intentional, as in planning and making sure. Intentional, as in putting it in the daytimer, as important as any other appointment in my day. Intentional, as in guarding some energy to give to the people I love best in the world.
Last night (after falling asleep on the sofa within minutes of getting home) I did manage (after I woke up) to make dinner for them. A real, hot, homemade dinner (thank GOD for weekend food prep) and it helped. We sat around the table and talked about our days. I looked at their beautiful faces and listened to their voices and remembered why I love these people so much. And then I fell asleep again.
Tonight, I am going to save a bigger chunk of my life energy to stay with it all the way through till bedtime. I’ll smile, I’ll hug, I talk about something other than work. I’m already thinking about each kid, who they are, how they communicate, what they need. I’m already planning my work day. What are the most important things I need to do? What must be done today, and what can wait a day?
I think I’ll put notes in their school lunches too. Maybe in their backpacks. Tell them how great they are. A little surprise and a little smile in their day.
Little things. Life is made of little things. Lots and lots and lots of little things.
And, as they say, someday we’ll look back, and we’ll realize, those were the big things.
What are you going to do this weekend? I know it’s only Thursday, but let’s make some plans. What time are you going to carve out, fiercely protect and then be entirely present for with your kids? What memories? What experiences?
I’m already making plans.
You see, I got one of those emails yesterday — one of those, “help, please pray for us because” emails that put life in perspective. And it has me craving time with my kids. They’re upstairs asleep right now and it’s all I can do to just leave them peacefully – not go kiss them and touch them and assure myself of their safety. There are days I just want to gather them under my wings like some great mother bird — today is one of those days.
There are days it’s easy to go to work and then there are days it’s hard to go to work. Today will be hard.
But I will go. And I’m sure I will work. Brains are amazing in their ability to buckle down and get a job done when we must get a job done. But I will think throughout day about getting home tonight, maybe going for a walk with the kids, maybe cooking something fancy and complicated and messy, maybe building a fire in our fire pit — the magic warmth of outdoor fire. And I will think about the weekend – what day trip can we do that I know they’ll love? What experiences, what adventures?
How can I tell them how important they are to me? Look them in the eye. Hear what they say. Wrap them in my arms and breathe them in. That I can do tonight, I don’t need to wait for the weekend for that. That I can do this morning. Kiss them awake, good morning, baby! Smile over breakfast.
Pain can be a reminder to treasure the good in our lives. When tragedy strikes, as it inevitably does somewhere nearby, let it be a reminder to us to live. LIVE.
There can be so many distractions, Mamma. But today, let the white noise fade into the background, and get a clear picture of what really matters. Are your kids healthy and happy and here? Then you are blessed.
Today may be a work day, but you’ll be home tonight, and the weekend is coming. What do you want to do with it? Your time, your family, your one and precious life.
When I was researching sugar addiction I came across a Jamie Oliver TED talk that was so powerful. I’ll link to it today; it’s well worth the twenty minutes. In fact, I encourage you to carve out the twenty minutes, I think his message is that important.
He talks about cooking with our kids. Preparing meals together.
I spent 45 minutes this morning looking for pictures of me cooking with my kids. There are pictures of us hiking and biking, rock climbing, water parking. There are pictures of us shopping and restauranting and being silly in the house. There are pictures of sleeping kids and reading kids and tree-climbing kids. Of course picures of every holiday from Christmas to the Fourth of July. But not cooking?
I am left to conclude that this isn’t something I have considered worthy of celebration and recording. And that’s kind of a shame.
Because cooking is one of those essential life skills that will affect my children for the rest of their lives. It is a visceral, warm, and can be a delightful activity that will not only connect us, but have a massive impact on their pysical health.
We do cook together — sort of. At our house the chore rotation is: laundry, kitchen clean and meal prep. Sadly, I haven’t made as big a deal of meal prep as I could have. Meal Prep Kiddo usually sets the table, and may help me with some of the cooking, but ironically, the preparation of the food isn’t the real focus for us. It’s as if it’s the thing to rush through to get to the eating that must be done to get to the good stuff.
Tonight, please God, I’m going to let the cooking be the good stuff.
I know we’ll be in a rush. I know I’ll be tired. It’ll be after sports practice and in the middle of homework and husband won’t get home till just before we sit down to eat.
Still. I’m going to watch Jamie Oliver’s talk one more time, and tonight, I’m going to think to myself about the world I am opening for my kiddo’s by teaching them some simple cooking skills.
Menu tonight says turkey burgers, roasted cauliflower and green beans with bleu cheese. I’ll have kiddo (daughter is on Meal Prep this week) coat the cauliflower pieces with olive oil, lemon juice and pressed fresh garlic. We’ll talk about the joy of making food that is delicious and nutritious. We can make the turkey burgers together. I’ll make sure we have Pandora going too. Wish me luck
Thursday — Kid Connection day.
It struck me this morning: Life is so simple.
Really, at it’s core, so simple.
I was looking back over some photo albums this morning, and it struck me that the times I remember with deepest affection weren’t the big vacations, but instead the simple ordinary being-togethers of everyday living.
It wasn’t the pictures from the thousand-dollars-fancy get on a plane and go that stirred my heart this morning, but rather the pictures of the kids rooting around in the pots and pans cupboard, the pictures of bathtime and bedtime, the pictures of the kids smiling like crazy running around our front yard.
Simple. Ordinary. Beautiful.
In the pictures I looked at today, the house was often quite the mess in the background – the kids didn’t care. Their hair was crazy messy in some of the pictures – and they didn’t care. We were filling up a ten dollar plastic kiddie pool with a garden hose, because we couldn’t afford to go to the water park – and they couldn’t have been happier.
What they cared about, then as now, was that they were important to me, that I was there. That I paid attention to them. That we read books and played dolls and splashed. It was the togetherness that mattered, not the location or the cost of the pool.
Because we have a job outside of mommying that takes up a significant chunk of our lives, because our time is more limited for everything, you and I have to be very intentional about taking this time to just hang out with the kids. To step out of the productivity for a little bit and just be.
Tonight, when you get home or when you get to their daycare, leave your briefcase or purse in the car so your arms are free to scoop up those precious kids. Turn off the cell phone, turn off the TV. When you get home, pile the kids on your lap and read books or build a fort or put on some music and dance in the kitchen. Kiss them and smell them and let them climb all over you! And take pictures. Take pictures! Don’t worry if the house is a mess in the background. Because there will be a morning, about fifteen years from now, when you will want to go back and visit this time, this precious, messy, perfectly imperfect time, when your kids are little and they are delighted to simply be with you.
Dinner?… have Cheerios in the fort. Have cheese sticks and grapes while you read together. Really, yogurt and Cracklin’ Oat Bran and strawberries will be just fine for one night.
Tonight, let everything that is undone fade into the background noise that it is, and focus on the brilliant gift that is your time together.
We mothers, we are so blessed. In my admittedly biased and nostalgic opinion this morning, the love between a mother and child is the highest and best experience this life of ours has to offer.
Tonight, take the time to revel in it.
Things I slow down and take time for as a working mom:
(An incomplete list of the things that make life worth living.)
I take time to read with my kids. I adore being tangled on the sofa with a kid or two, a blanket, dogs at our feet. I especially love when we take turns reading out loud to each other. I try to read with my kids every day. Heaven.
I take time to make my children breakfast as often as I can. Not only do they physically need this most important meal of the day, but I know my emotional tone can set the tone for their day.
I take time to find out about my kids’ day when I come home at night. “Tell me three things that you did today,” or “What were two fun things and two tough things that happened today?” I want to know my children. I want them to know how much they matter to me.
I take time to enjoy my coffee, hot and steaming and delicious. My wake up call for the day. I enjoy the experience of that first sip to a ridiculous degree.
I MAKE time whenever a friend calls me in need. Some things in life are worth jettisoning the schedule for. Like a friend whose kid was just hospitalized or the friend who calls saying “I don’t think I can make this marriage work, do you have time for lunch?” YES. YES, I have time for lunch.
I take time to talk to my kids when they come to me saying, “Mom?” I look them in the eye, listen to them and respond to them. Because that is what I am here for. That is the solid gold core of my life and if I don’t do that, nothing else I do matters. If I’m on a call and can’t be interrupted, I do shut my office door, but even when it’s shut, I’ve told the kids that if it’s an emergency, knock and put a note up to the window (French doors) to let me know what’s going on. I’ll never forget the day I looked up and the note said, “The oven is on fire.” (UH… hey Jim, let me call you back.)
I take time to pet my dogs. Ridiculous, fuzzy, living breathing comic relief. They love it and I love it.
I take time to enjoy the act of eating dinner with my family. I love food and I love my family. I love hearing about the kids’ days over dinner. Even if we’re eating at 8:30 at night. Even if we’re eating on paper plates. This is among the most treasured time of my life, this everyday connecting with the people I like best in the world.
I take time to notice flowers. Because they affect me, their beauty feeds my soul. Can’t explain it.
I take time to do outdoor activities with my family. Whether we are canoeing, hiking, or skiing, this is time we all LOVE LOVE LOVE. No worrying about laundry or work allowed here. No checking email or Facebook. No taking phone calls. Unless it’s Grandma. We always answer for Grandma.
I take time to write thank you notes and bereavement cards. Because it matters.
I take time to kiss my husband. Beginning of day, end of day, and whenever he does something wonderful, which is often.
I take time to make it to my kids’ activities. Even if I have to show up straight from the airport. In a suit. Feeling like a dork. Even if I can only make the last half of the game.
I take time to make homemade risotto, pancakes on Saturday morning, Christmas cookies, and a from scratch birthday cake for my kid with food allergies. Feeding my family is a visceral experience that goes far beyond the food itself. I don’t have time to do from-scratch cooking every day, but I treasure the experience and make time to do it enough. I never understood the whole feminist disparaging of cooking as something somehow beneath a working woman – I love to cook.
I take time to be with my children when they’re sick. Whether spooning little Pedialyte ice chips into their fevered mouths, rubbing their back as they fall asleep on the bathroom floor, or stroking their sweet, sweaty head in an emergency room bed, I’m there. This I clear the schedule for. Did you know that a white tiled bathroom floor can be exquisitely comfortable once your kiddo has finally stopped throwing up? I’ll bet you did.
I take time for Family Blessing at night. It’s the last thing we do before we go to bed at night. We have an Irish prayer we say, asking God to watch over all of us. Even if I have to do it via cell phone, in the back hallway of a restaurant in San Francisco. Smiling at the waiters as they walk by.
I take time for Family Meeting every Sunday night. Ever since our youngest was three years old, we have gathered our kids every Sunday night to talk about our week. The leadership rotates between the five of us, and the leader also gets to choose dinner, dessert and the Family Activity we do after the meeting. (Amazingly creative dinners when a three year old is picking the menu.) We go over the Best and Toughest of our week, talk about what matters to us. I want to know my children. I want them to know each other. This I take time for, every week.
I take time to exercise – at least three times a week. Because I need the energy boost. And because I am crabby as hell without it.
I take time to enjoy the occasional fire in our fire pit outside or in our living room fireplace during the winter months. There is something mesmerizing about a fire. I love watching my kids sprawled on the rug with their head propped on a dog, soaking up the warmth of the fire. I love drifting off to sleep on our big cushy sofa, my head on my husband’s shoulder.
I take time to thank God every day for the amazing life with which He has blessed me. Because no matter what is happening in my life, there are a thousand moms in Sudan, or Syria, or in the Children’s Hospital down the street who would trade places with me in a heartbeat. That I get to be here and not there is a mind-blowing blessing I am grateful for every day.
And I take time to talk to my Working Mommy friends. Because it makes me smile, gives me an energy boost, and inspires me to be my best self every beautiful, crazy day.
What do you take time for?
Let’s have a phone-free dinner tonight, sound good? I learned yesterday that Kid President was right when he said that we need to put our phones down. Here’s what I learned:
First, I read an article in The Economist (May 17-23rd) that detailed a study where people had to decide whether or not to kill one person to save five others. Most telli…ng was the introduction of a mechanical switch to distance the actor from the killing, the result of which was that if the subjects of the study didn’t have to personally shove the one person to their death, but rather throw a switch that would kill them, they were more likely to kill the one to save the five.
Technology, it would seem, makes us more distant from each other.
It got me thinking about cell phones. Seriously, it did. That ever present tool, that little black rectangle through which so much of our life is filtered now.
Because I wondered, I did what curious people do now; I Googled. Sure enough, here I find a study about how technology interferes with our intimacy (I’ll post a link to it on the Facebook page.) Specifically, how even the sight of a cell phone on the table can interfere with trust and connection between two people talking at the table. I can’t say I was surprised.
I think I intuitively knew that the little black rectangle gets in the way. It does. This is why my children beg me to put it down. And why it irks me when they bring their cell phones to the dinner table. It’s as if we are telling each other: “You are not enough. Someone else may be more important than you, and I have to be ready at a moment’s notice to leave you, and be there for them.” Not the best message to send our kids. Or spouses.
I get it. You need the phone. I need my phone too, but, you know, probably not every minute. And if I recognize the fact that the thing is interfering with my relationship with my kids and spouse, then I REALLY don’t need it out every minute. But, what if there is an emergency! Well, my whole family is right there with me, right? What kind of emergency can’t wait two hours while I have dinner and put my kids to bed?
A couple weeks ago, we had a Do Nothing Day where I left the phone at home. You should have seen my kids light up when I told them I wasn’t even bringing the phone. It was like they’d won the lottery. I was embarrassed, they were so excited. “Goodness,” I thought, “Am I that bad with the phone?”
All throughout the day, I kept reaching for the phone that wasn’t there like I had some sort of tic. It was pathetic. If I needed a lesson in how much I am on the damn thing, that was it.
So, for me, from now on, when evening rolls around, when hubby is at home, and we all trundle into our dinner and bedtime routine, my phone will get turned off and put away. It is going to be out of sight completely. From now on, I’ll tell my family with my actions, as well as my words, that they are the most important people in my life.
So, nutrition. Yesterday I started the week massively behind in all my life maintenance stuff. Laundry, dishes, bills… NOTHING got done this last weekend. (Awesome weekend.) So I knew starting out that I needed to be firing on all cylinders yesterday if I had a prayer of catching up; I knew I needed every ounce of energy I could get out of my body. Here’s yesterday’s menu:
4:00 A.M. Coffee,w ½ cup skim milk, herbal tea, one KIND bar (vanilla)
5:45 – 6:30 run
7 am Protein powder in 20 oz water, 1½ cup berries
9:45 1 c quinoa w chicken salad (leftover from Saturday) and ½ t balsamic vinegar, 1 whole avocado w sea salt, herbal tea
11 am green tea
12:30 1 c fresh raspberries, 1 carton plain greek yogurt with ¼ cup low sugar granola
2:00 green tea
3:00 green tea, with one almond/date scone (made on Saturday)
5:00 1 bowl fresh cherries
7:00 1 c gluten free pasta, 1 cup red sauce, parmesan, olives, 2 pieces of salami, 20 oz iced herbal tea, 1 piece bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, blueberries/cream for dessert. (I don’t usually eat bread, but Grandpa brought this loaf as a gift.)
8:00 P.M. 6 squares of dark chocolate (85%).
Please also note that the only prep time I took for yesterday’s during the day food was to cut the avocado into the quinoa salad leftovers. Zero prep time and everything between breakfast and dinner was eaten at my desk. Keep it easy!
We are, quite literally, what we eat. Clean food gives us energy. Overly processed junk saps it. I don’t know how scientific you want me to get here, but simply stated, the more processed the food, generally the less it will do for us.
Consider the difference between an apple and, for example, say, a cheese doodle.
Apple: Water and fiber, micronutrients, phtyto-nutrients, and the anti-oxidants vitamin C and beta carotene. Natural fruit sugar (fructose) digests slowly (glycemic index of 38) giving you a steady stream of energy without a crash afterward. About 100 calories.
Cheese Doodle (on tiny bag, 3/4 oz): No fiber, no water, 240 mg of sodium to help you look puffy, 15 grams of fat and not the good kind, digests quickly (glycemic index of 74) so that your blood sugar will spike and then drop like a stone, making you sleepier than you before you ate the darn things. According to one report, about as nutritious as the bag they come in. About 100 calories.
You need energy, all Working Mommies do. What you eat will have a massive effect on your energy. For today, choose clean and take note of what happens to your energy.
Monday – Pasta – gluten free Bionatrae pasta (that I order from Amazon) and turkey meatballs. Veggie: tomato and cucumber salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Turkey meatballs were made ahead and frozen. This whole meal is 20 minutes from briefcase touchdown to table.
Tuesday – Rotisserie Chicken and Veggies – Gotta remember to get to the grocery store before 6:30. Last week they were sold out when I got there at 7:00. Veggies: Roasted carrots and cauliflower. SO EASY. Soak in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and spend one hour in a low heat oven. Yes, the kids will eat them.
Wednesday – Soup -and Bread – cannellini bean and spinach soup with Chebe rolls. Can make this in the crock pot before I leave in the morning. Veggies: Spinach and tomato in the soup, steamed broccoli with cheese on the side.
Thursday – Let’s Dish Day at our house – … let’s see, what do I have in the freezer from these guys… Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas. Goes right from the freezer to the oven, awesome. Veggie: salted avocado slices (so easy!) and lime cilantro slaw with pre-sliced cabbage and dressing (I can make the dressing on the weekend and mix in day of, it keeps really well.)
Friday – Frozen Udi’s pizza. Was on sale BOGO last week, still have 3 in the freezer. Veggie: apple and pear slices. Okay, they’re not technically veggies, but they work.
Saturday – this upcoming Saturday is our Do Nothing Day. I am not allowed to plan anything for this day. How awesome is that?
School lunch stuff to add to grocery list: bananas, yogurt (live and active cultures), 1% cottage cheese, KIND bars, FiberOne bread, deli ham, cheese sticks and slices, grapes, more apples and pears, trail mix.
Breakfast stuff to add: Cheerios (on every grocery list since 1997), spreadable butter, peanut butter (crunchy and creamy), celery (for ants-on-a-log snacks), raisins (ditto), 6 gallons of milk (two teenagers in my house, can you tell?)
Happy meal planning day, Working Mommy.